Monroe County history, Iowa
Chapter 9. The Civil War
pages 53 - 57

Transcribed by MaryAlice Schwanke

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The outbreak of the Civil War did not disturb the settlement and prosperous growth of Monroe County, although many volunteers from the district served in the Union forces. Some were "vigorous young farmers and mechanics"; most of them were sons of the settlers who had been cultivating the region since the early 1840's.

In Monroe County, as in general throughout Iowa, popular sentiment upheld the Union and the North, cut a few families were known to have sympathized with the southern cause. No conflicts or hostile incidents have been recorded, however, possibly because the men who were of military age are said to have "skipped to the far west" to avoid the draft.

The quota of volunteers requested from the State of Iowa was listed at 49,405, of which Monroe County's share was 619. A large proportion of volunteers from the county was enlisted with the 6th, 22nd and 32nd Infantries, and the First Cavalry.

Company E of the 6th Infantry was composed principally of Monroe volunteers, as were Companies A and K of the 36th. Men from this district also served in the 8th, 17th, 18th, 33d and 37th (Graybeard) Infantry Regiments, and in the 7th Iowa Cavalry. Altogether 879 men were enlisted from Monroe County.

Twenty-five organizations were formed for active and home service, on the following dates:
Monroe Guards, May 11, 1861, accepted for 6th Infantry.
Monroe Light Horse, May 11, 1861, accepted for 1st Cavalry.
Volunteer Militia of Urbana Township (no date given).
Albia Rifles, organized August 24, 1861.
Stacyville Union Guards, June 15, 1861.
Urbana Grays, July 15, 1861.
Melrose Guards, October 21, 1861.
Albia State Guards, May 30, 1863.
Monroe Grays, September 16, 1863.
Melrose Grays, July 10, 1863.
Franklin Sharpshooters, August 23, 1864.
Military Company of Monroe Township, August 20, 1864.
Lovilia Independent Company, August 1864.
Urbana Union Company, September 3, 1864.
The Albia Invincibles, September 16k 1864.
Union Township Military Company, August 27, 1864.
Rough and Ready Company, Mantua Township, August 18, 1864.
Pleasant Corner Company, August 12, 1864.
Osprey Rangers, Sept. 6, 1864.
Wayne Township Company, August 6, 1864.
Bluff Creek Rangers, August 18, 1864.
Guilford Township Company, August 23, 1864.
Pleasant Township Company, August 27, 1864.

There were many casualties among Monroe soldiers at the front, particularly among those who fought at Shiloh and Vicksburg, and relatives were notified that husbands, sons, and brothers had been killed in action, had died of wounds, or were taken prisoner. The 6th Infantry lost a tremendous number; seven officers and 100 men were killed in action; 469 men and 18 officers were wounded. The 36th Infantry lost 35 men in action, 25 from wounds, 235 from disease, and on by suicide; 142 were wounded.

Many who enlisted were very young, others, scarcely more than boys, had recently emigrated from Europe. Among the former was Charles H. Stevenson, who at the age of 16 had received the first teacher's certificate granted in Monroe County. He had been appointed to teach school in Mantua Township at a salary of $30 per monthm, but "this intended peaceful pursuit was interrupted; and he resigned his position to accept $13 a month to assist in the preservation of the Union."

Stevenson enlisted August 1, 1862 in Company D, 22nd Iowa Volunteers -- a regiment which was the first to cross the Mississippi in Grant's Vicksburg campaign and later made a "gallant assault" on Fort Beauregard. Stevenson participated in the siege of Petersburg and Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864. Captured at the battle of Winchester, Virginia, September 19, 1864, he spent seven months in southern prisons -- at the notorious Libby, and later at Salisbury and Andersonville. He was said to have saved the lives of several of his comrades by sharing his scanty rations with them.

One of the hard-fighting volunteers from Mantua Township was H. M. Chidester, who was born in Lewis County, West Virginia, October 28, 1837, and was one of 14 children in the Zadok Chidester family. In June, 1846, the Chidesters had traveled by boat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi rivers to Keokuk, then overland by oxteam to Mantua Township, where the father secured 700 acres of land. The son, H. M., who enlisted in February 1863 in Company A, 36th Iowa Infantry, fought at Elkin's Ford and Camden, and
was taken prisoner at Mark's Mills. During his ten months of captivity, he lived on one pint of meal per day.

Another volunteer from Mantua Township was Asa A. Baird, owner of a 240-acre farm, who had driven from West Virginia in 1854, a journey of six weeks by horse and wagon. Serving in the 36th Iowa Infantry, he also was taken prisoner at Mark's Mills and was held for ten months in the Confederate prison at Tyler, Texas.

Levi Billings, whose parents settled in Monroe County when he was six, and who in later days could describe seeing two to five yoke of oxen driven to the breaking plow, enlisted in 1862 in Company B, 7th Iowa Cavalry. His regiment formed a part of the rough-rider command in the Western Army, covering 4,888 miles of the Plains, and participating in several engagements with the hostile Sioux, Cherokee and other warlike tribes.

The First Iowa Cavalry claimed Archibald Sinclair, who was born in Ireland in 1847, and became a resident of Monroe County in 1856. Enlisting at the age of 16, he served in the southwest under General Davison and General Resecrans, and under General Custer in Texas.

Such are a few thumbnail war records, typical of the hundreds which might be mentioned to the credit of Monroe County.

James Drury, who fought with the 4th Vermont regiment, later lived near Albia. Drury, a native of County Claire, Ireland, moved to America in 1845, and enlisted in Vermont in 1861. For his bravery at the battle of Weldon Railroad, June 23, 1864, Drury was granted a medal by a special Act of Congress. The ex-soldier moved to Iowa in 1869 with his young wife. "His entire capital was $2.50, out of which amount he was obliged to pay 50 cents to have his trunk taken to his home, 8 miles north of Albia." A stonemason by trade,
Drury was able to make a good living, and later acquired 200 acres of land.